At the end of last week we had to either re-enrol or withdraw our youngest, R, for the next 2014-15 school year. (F is 18 and so leaving anyway.) In the cut-throat world of international schools, where demand is high and waiting lists are long, it’s brutal – there’s no leeway, absolutely no extensions. Not doing either, as you can probably imagine if you’ve ever dealt with such a place, has heavy financial implications. Anyway, the long and short of it was we had a deadline for a decision that’s been hovering around for several months now. And the decision we made? We’re going home, back to the UK.
Given the life I currently lead, I’m hardly alone in having to contemplate or come to terms with such a move, but as this is a blog about these things, and it’s neither a secret nor (commonplace as it might be here) actually that normal for me, it feels appropriate to mark it. So, hoooooo, big exhalation. How do I feel?
In no particular order:
a. Happy that we, Mr N and I, can be more effectively there for H – and, as of September/ October, F too – at university: lunch and dinner treats, odd weekends home, nothing if they don’t need it, but knowing it can be done is warming and beats just sending money and Skyping.
b. Heavy-hearted about having to say (what in many cases will be a final) goodbye to Houston friends, whose easy affinity has belied the need in all of us when rootless to find people, quick, with whom we click – and find them we do.
c. Thrilled at the prospect of physically reconnecting with my Derbyshire pals whose lives have been intertwined with the growing up of our children from babies; no more missed family camping trips, big birthdays, girls’ weekends away, weddings (yes, even at our, let’s say seasoned, ages there have been TWO in my absence so, who knows?), oh and miss them I have.
d. Guilty at inflicting a move on R, who at 15 is at a tricksy age, educationally and emotionally; seeing your children miserable or hurt is worse than feeling miserable or hurt yourself, empathy doesn’t get near to describing the raw emotion. And, as if that wasn’t quite hard enough, this is of our doing, not his at all, so some might consider him justified if he questioned our parenting. Already he’s made some barbed [albeit very funny – there is hope] remarks: watching a tv programme about planes t’other night, I said how nice it would be if one of my three children became a pilot, free flights and all that, at which he batted back, “the way my schooling’s going, all you’ll be getting free from me is a Starbucks”. Ouch. And then, later, mulling over whether to get a dog (see last post, dog shit and death, for outcome of said mulling) he was all for it, “cos it’ll be the only friend I’ll have next year”. Double ouch. I don’t doubt it’s going to get sharper before it gets softer.
e. Comforted that we’ll be back round the corner from Grandma and Grandad (who, though they’d never ever say it, have suffered the void of their grandchildren) and really just down the road (in Texan terms) from the rest of the family of cousins and aunties and uncles and old friends far and wide but still no more than a few hours away.
f. Sorry to leave Houston itself in all its sprawling, concrete, road-y, flat, ugliness. I’ve loved it here and feel quite, well, fond of the place, loyal even. It’s full of surprises – the rodeo’s a wow, fabulous live music, dance and drama in intimate places, a free outdoor theatre, choice of restaurants to die for, green spaces sprawling under big roads, the 50 mile long Buffalo Bayou from beyond Katy to downtown, the Alamo Drafthouse serving locally micro-brewed beers and cocktails and home-made food at your seats while you watch a movie that probably isn’t a blockbuster, might be a cult classic, and that maybe you can sing- or quote-along to as well, and more, more, more. And I’m guessing I won’t come back.
g. Excited at soon being able to walk to the shops, buy lamb from the local butcher, meat pies from the bakery, cycle out of our front door, catch buses and trains again, read and share the Saturday Guardian, run in the hills, listen to Radio 4 in real time.
h. Rueful to be giving up a swimming pool in my back garden, free tennis courts and the weather that means we can use them virtually all year round.
i. Thankful to be handing back a rented house, no longer needing to excuse the decor, and heading to our very own bricks and mortar (the place where R was born!) and the stuff that fills and decorates it.
j. Disappointed that we will no longer have North America on our doorstep. We haven’t been to DC, Chicago, Boston, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. I haven’t yet managed to visit my childhood neighbours in Pennsylvania (sorry E but maybe it’s not quite too late, I WILL ring you and your Mum soon!) or get back to Ottawa where my Dad’s sister lives – my and my brother’s last link to anyone who remembers him now my Mum can’t.
k. Determined to make the most of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the rest of Europe on our new doorstep (and yes, V, that definitely means Belgium too!).
l. Pathetically, sorry for myself and a little short-changed: this was always a precarious posting for us that could’ve been over in a year, but all the same, two years doesn’t quite feel long enough and in a beat will be gone. Three years would’ve been perfect.
m. Lucky lucky lucky for what we have had and all we’ve been able to see, do and experience.
n. Wearied by the thought of the packing up and associated palaver.
o. Looking forward to the leaving party.
p. Dreading the departure.
q. Dancing at the anticipation of the arrival.
r. Reluctant to relinquish my life of ease, privilege, and easy-to-dispense charity.
s. Ready to reestablish my role as a working woman – it’s time to get back to earning my crust!
t. Nervous that I’ve burnt my bridges career-wise and that, at nearly 50 and almost idle for two years, I’ll be good for nowt.
u. Hopeful that Mr N will find fulfilment in a job he enjoys and can continue to keep me in the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed should the above scenario play out.
v. Uncertain about the direction I want to take when I’m back and my ability to seize the moment: is this a door opening or closing?
w. Newly motivated to finish the novel I’m writing before we go. (Ok, it’s out there now, that should make me do it…).
x. Worried that we’ve made the wrong decision (but how will we ever know?).
y. Relieved that it was, nevertheless, our decision in the end and that at last we’ve made it, after months of indecision and what felt like lack of control.
z. Absolutely certain that, if we went back in time knowing all of this, we would do it all again. Hell, yeah!